ENGL 6310/7310 Popular Culture Studies Fall 2011 PH 300 M 240-540 Dr. David Lavery. No Whey . . . Yes Way: The Persistence of Velveeta. Exaggeration Novelty Strangeness Plastic.
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ENGL 6310/7310 Popular Culture Studies
Dr. David Lavery
It is only a short step from exaggerating what we can find in the world to exaggerating our power to remake the world. Expecting more novelty than there is, more greatness than there is, and more strangeness than there is, we imagine ourselves masters of a plastic universe. But a world we can shape to our will—or to our extravagant expectations—is a shapeless world.
--Daniel J. Boorstin,
The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America
Velveeta, once an American foodstuff celebrity, is surely a targeted “food product” trapped in its twentieth century ideals of the highly processed.
Phenett + NuKraft=VELVEETA (1928)
From its origin, Velveeta offered durability (through longevity in shelf life), affordability, convenience, ease, and comfort—the material qualities Americans desire most in goods and commodities.
It may not really be food.
Yet Velveeta has persisted. Kraft’s aggressive marketing campaign has championed the fact that Velveeta’s best quality is that it is NOT cheese.
Once known as Processed Cheese Spread and Processed Cheese Food, Velveeta is now categorized as Processed Cheese Product.
In its 2003 warning letter, the FDA charges Kraft with misbranding Velveeta because it does “not conform to definition and standard [because the product declares] milk protein concentrate [not milk] in [its] ingredients list, ” and continues, “Milk protein concentrate (MPC) is not listed as an optional dairy ingredient in any of the standardized cheese products governed by a standard of identity, and therefore standardized cheese products are not permitted to contain MPC as an ingredient” (Connelly).
In “Popular Culture in North America: Food and Foodways,” twentieth century American food consumers’ disconnect and compromise about defining food is explained: “The attractive appearance and packaging of mainstream food supplies disguised the unseen additives within. From as early as the 1920s Americans had applauded while food chemists created marvelous substances that tasted like real food, forecasting a revolution in which the creations of science would replace nature’s bounty” (Taylor and Reiss).
Velveeta is a prime example of how twentieth century food chemists were “shaping their will” to what was and has now become Boorstin’s “shapeless world” in which even food had become a pseudo-event and where consumers, “[e]xpecting more novelty than there is, more greatness than there is, and more strangeness than there is,” (118) could no longer distinguish between actual food and not-food, or, more likely, they did not really seem to mind and may have even preferred the novelty and strangeness.
Kristi Ceccarossi in her June 2010 editorial “Community Gardens Don’t Excuse What Kraft Did to American Food” argues, “I don’t need the mammoth corporation that manufactures Velveeta to help me clear a bit of earth and prepare it for cultivation. None of us do.”
In “A Tale of Two Cheeses” published in American Demographics, Michael J. Weiss examines the consumer demographics of Washington, D.C. in 1998 and finds unsurprisingly that Brie eaters tend to be executives, “college-educated professionals with six-figure incomes” and “living in upscale neighborhoods of Northwest, D.C. and the western suburbs of Montgomery County, Maryland and Fairfax, Virginia” while Velveeta eaters “live in a different world. They are concentrated in the middle-class, family-filled suburbs of Prince George’s County and predominantly black District neighborhoods like Le Droit park . . . .” Today Americans are living in a Velveeta economy.
If Kraft is winking at its customers as it offers up another slice of Velveeta, the customers are winking back.
Mad Men (4.2)
“Christmas Comes but Once a Year”
Secretary: “Uhm, the girls went to Joan, and I don’t want to undermined her, but are we allowed to bring a friend to the Christmas party?’
Don: “Lane scaled it back to a glass of gin and a box of Velveeta, we’re taking our belts.”
“Shut the Door. Have a Seat.”
“Love Among the Ruins”
Velveeta will likely endure to celebrate its centennial birthday in 2028. Prepare the queso dip.
Velveeta on Facebook
Advertisement. Velveeta It! Kitchenistas. Kraft Foods Inc., 2009. Web. 29 July 2010. <http://brands.kraftfoods.com/Velveeta/kitchenista/vk-archive-mon.html>.
Boorstin, Daniel J. The Image: A Guide to Psuedo Events in America. 25th Anniversary Edition ed. 1961. New York: Vintage Books, 1987. Print.
Carlin, Joseph M. “Kraft Foods.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink. Ed. Gordon Campbell. Oxford UP, 2003. Web. 23 July 2010.
Ceccarossi, Kristi. “Community Gardens Don’t Excuse What Kraft Did to American Food.” Editorial. Common Dreams.org. Common Dreams, 1 June 2010. Web. 25 July 2010. <http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/06/01-3>.
Connelly, Virginia R. “Kraft Foods North America, Inc. 18-Dec-02 Warning Letter.” Letter to Betsy D. Holden/ Kraft Foods North America, Inc. 18 Dec. 2002. Department of Health and Human Serivces. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Inspections, Complience, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations. www.hhs.gov. Web. 26 July 2010. <http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/2002/ucm145363.htm>.
Griffith, Benjamin. “Kraft Television Theatre.” St. James Encyclopedia of Poular Culture. Gale Group, 29 Jan. 2002. Web. 26 July 2010. <http:////findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_g1epc/is_tov/ai_2419100683/ >.
“Kraft Foods Inc.” Funding Universe. The Gale Group, 2006. Web. 28 July 2010. <http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/Kraft-Foods-Inc-Company-History.html>.
Kraft Military. Kraft Foods Inc., 2010. Web. 25 July 2010. <http://brands.kraftfoods.com/kraftmilitary/>.
“The Kraft Music Hall.” IMDb: The Internet Movie Database. IMDb.com inc., 2010. Web. 26 July 2010. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065308/>.
“Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall.” IMDB: The Internet Movie Database. IMDb.com Inc., 2010. Web. 25 July 2010.
Rath, Sara. “Velveeta.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Ed. Gordon Campbell. Oxford U Pa, 2003. Web. 23 July 2010.
Taylor, Beverly, and Edmund Reiss. “Popular Culture in North America: Food and Foodways.” The Greenworld Enyclopedia of World Popular Culture: North America. Greenwood Publishing, 2010. Web. 29 July 2010.
Velveeta . Facebook, 25 July 2010. Web. 29 July 2010. <http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#!/Velveeta?v=wall&story_fbid=134490556591147>.
“Velveeta.” Advertisement. Kraft Foods. Kraft Foods Inc., 2010. Web. 27 July 2010. <http://brands.kraftfoods.com/velveeta/Home>.
Velveeta Slices. Advertisement. 20 Sept. 2009. YouTube. Web. 28 July 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0C2om_e19c&feature=related>.
Veveeta vs. Cheddar. Advertisement. 8 Oct. 2007. YouTube. Web. 27 July 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkkD21cdG0Q&NR=1>.
Weiss, Michael J. “A Tale of Two Cheeses.” American Demographics 20.2 (1998): 16-18. General OneFile. Web. 26 July 2010.